March 17, 1999
1. Essay form (7%)
2. Tenochtitlan case study (10%)
3. Mozambique case study (13%)
4. Comparison of Tenochtitlan and Mozambique cases (15%)
5. Summary of the gun powder arguments in Stearns (35%)
6. Discussion and critique of gun powder arguments in the light of the Tenochtitlan and Mozambique case studies (20%)
In the past wars were fought to gain land, wealth, and fame. Two such examples of this are the battle of Tenochtitlan and Mozambique. These are two battles that disprove the gun powder superiority theory. Certain countries look to get an advantage, by incorporating such things as guns, canons, and steel armor. Some countries look to gain an advantage through superior numbers. Several Army leaders simply believed they were superior to their adversaries. Such as the case in Tenochtitlan.
The purpose for the invasion of Mexico is not clear however, has stated above it is usually for power, land, or money. In this case Cortes was looking for gold that he hoped he could take from a primitive people. In April 1521Cortes had reached Tenochtitlan. This would mark the beginning of the battle between the Spanish and the Aztec. Before the Spanish arrived in Mexico, a sickness broke out. This epidemic was small pox. Small pox decimated villages. Small pox caused blemishes on people faces, it caused their bodies to become stiff, and made some people unable to move. “And when things were in this state, the Spaniards came…” (Sources, 70 L.). Twelve Spanish boats had come, traveling the coast and looking for places to land. The Spanish managed to get two boats in. It is documented that these boats came in fighting. “There were deaths on both sides, and on both sides captives were taken.” (Sources, 70 L.). It is recorded that at the first sight of the Spaniards the natives ran. With the village emptied the Spaniards took as they pleased. As the Spaniards continued they came to a place where the fortress was well fortified. This presented no obstacle as they used their canons to blast down the wall.”and the fourth time finally the wall went to the ground once and for all…” (sources, 70 L.) Once inside, the Tzilacatzin and some other warriors went out to face the oncoming Spaniards. These warriors used nothing more than stones repeal the oncoming Spanish. This sent the Spaniards retreating. Some of these warriors hid in the dense brush, and as the Spaniards came through the warriors ambush them. The Spaniards had come with gunpowder and guns and when ambushed these guns did not help. The selection is not specific but I don’t believe the Aztec had guns of any kind. “Then he went and threw a Spaniard down, knocking him to the ground…” (Sources 71 L.). The captives were taken to Yacacolca and sacrificed. Spanish first and all other second. The heads were hung on skull racks facing the East. The Aztec won this battle but it would be short-lived.
The second example is the battle in Mozambique. This is similar to the previously described battle in that the natives seemed fearful at first, and retaliated to win the battle. The Portuguese arrived in the rivers of Cuama in the year 1593. Dom Pedro de Sousa led them. This battle was a retaliation of an earlier battle in which the Zimba had killed one of the Portuguese priests. Dom Pedro de Sousa obtained information about his enemy and quickly raised an army. “… 200 Portuguese and 1500 Kaffirs…” (sources, 65 L.) He also took various pieces of artillery, which he wanted to use on the walls. When this failed he was determined to enter by assault. He had part of the trench filled, through which several of his soldiers were wounded by the arrows being shot from above. The natives also used boiling fat and water, which they poured on the attackers and scalded them. They also used iron hooks, which they would stick through the holes of the wall and grab anyone who came too close and wounded them mortally. Following this encounter the captain ordered his men back to camp so they could rest and tend to the wounded. The captain had an idea that would put his men on an equal ground with the natives. He would build wickerwork frames that his men could stand on in use their guns against the Zimba. With this strategy nearly ready to go, several of his men claimed to have received letters from their wives relating a danger at home. “The residents of Sena went to the captain and begged him to abandon the siege of the Zimba and attend to what was of greater importance…” (Sources 65r). The captain believing these letters to be true abandoned the siege. At nightfall the Zimba fell upon the camp and killed some men who were still there. As in the example above the natives were victorious.
There were some similarities in these two battles. The obvious similarity is that the natives won in both cases. The next similarity is that the winner did not need the use of guns nor canons. It seems the gunpowder was not a deciding factor in the outcome of either of these battles. In both battles the deciding factor was the strategy used by both side’s leaders. In the Tenochtitlan battle the natives lay hidden in the brush and waited to ambush the oncoming Spaniards, and were able to win without the use of gunpowder. In the battle Mozambique the natives remained in their fortress and with out the use of gunpowder held back the mighty Portuguese. The greatest difference between these two battles is that in the battle of Mozambique the Portuguese must have grown tired or maybe fearful of fighting the natives. This is evident because of the alleged letters they received from their wives. In the battle of Tenochtitlan the men may have been ambushed so quickly they did not have time to develop fear of the natives and their weapons.
These two battles present interesting situations in which the technologically advanced peoples lost to a more primitive culture. Stearns adequately discusses how countries became world powers through the use an adaptation of gunpowder. In fact, it goes so far as to say that the only reason nations using gunpowder fell, is because of weak central governments. The Chinese had great success with gunpowder and other countries seeing this success wanted to duplicate it. Thus, they hired specialists to replicate and in some cases improve upon the existing guns. “In many areas, the new military technology contributed decisively to broader social and political transformations.” (Stearns, 119r). In these cases canons were used to reduce enemy castles to nothing more than scrap rock. This brought about a major change in defense systems. The resulting systems were often expensive, but resulted in a core of new highway strategic officers. As stated earlier some countries fell because of weak central governments. In an effort to avoid this the Japanese banned firearms. They felt the public having firearms would promote revolts. In the end it is shown that countries that adapted to using guns were more successful and maintained power longer. “In each of the Muslim Empire’s, decline was both relative to and hastened by the rise of European rivals, who proved more adept at taking advantage of the power potential offered by the gun powder revolution.” (Stearns, 120r).
So the question remains why did two primitive countries defeat major nations in two separate battles? Our book would have us believe that any nation holding gunpowder technology would be superior to a country that does not possess that technology. These two battles clearly show that more goes into a flight than just technology. In the battle of Tenochtitlan the egotistical Spanish marched right into their own death trap. In the battle Mozambique several factors played: 1. Poor leadership 2. Poor strategy. The captain let his men gets so down after their first defeat that they did not want to go back again. Also, it was very poor strategy to attack a fortress where the soldiers were looking down on you. The captain had a better strategy but by then it was too late his men were fearful fighting again. These two battles go to show that our authors have over estimated gunpowder. It is a tool, but not the deciding factor.